General Motors Foundation Resumes Giving to Detroit Arts Groups

With General Motors posting profits for the first time since the collapse of the U.S. auto industry in the fall of 2008, the General Motors Foundation has resumed giving to arts and cultural organizations in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press reports.

During its heyday, the auto industry had provided millions of dollars to nonprofits in Detroit each year. Prior to the Great Recession, GM was contributing more than $1 million a year to Detroit arts organizations. According to Eileen Wunderlich, manager of corporate communications for the Chrysler Group, the Chrysler Foundation awarded more than $2 million to local arts groups prior to 2007. After auto sales began to decline in 2008, the Ford Motor Company Fund's philanthropy fell from $36 million in 2007 to $20 million in 2010.

But in the past six months, GM has increased its giving, particularly in the areas of education, the environment, health and human services, and energy and community development. Indeed, the foundation recently pledged $27.1 million over five years to the United Way for Southeastern Michigan to help improve graduation rates and rebuild Detroit's skilled workforce.

Carolyn Markey, GM's communications manager for public policy, told the Free Press that the automaker plans to expand its grantmaking activities in 2011, though its giving is unlikely to return to pre-recession levels for some time.

Even so, arts organizations in the Detroit area are elated that the companies are able to resume their giving. "It's a huge deal for us," said Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit founder and CEO Rick Sperling. "Ford, GM, and Chrysler were our largest annual corporate sponsors, and we lost GM and Chrysler in the last few years. To get GM back will make a huge difference in our ability to break even."

Mark Stryker. "GM Resumes Arts Grants." Detroit Free Press 02/25/2011.